Wednesday, July 18, 2012

In Which The Warlock Examines Some Ethical Dilemmas...

A bit of honesty here to begin this entry:  I've been a little bit skeptical of the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises.  While it's been extremely well-reviewed thusfar, 2008's The Dark Knight and Inception only made me more appreciative of Christopher Nolan as an introspective, nuanced filmmaker.

While I'll still be seeing it on Friday with the PlatinumChick before game night, The Dark Knight Rises has massive shoes to fill in the wake of both its predecessor and The Avengers, both of which stand as the crowning achievements in genre-filmmaking in this decade, maybe of all time.

The inspiration for 2008's
The Dark Knight.
The reason I'm so skeptical of TDKR comes from the moral and ethical weight of its predecessor, stemming directly from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's timeless Batman storyline "The Long Halloween".  The majority of the plot from The Dark Knight comes from that comic series, as Batman, Commissioner Gordon, and Harvey Dent work towards taking down the mob-influences that infest the city.  However, their uncompromising war on crime comes crashing down through the death of Rachel Dawes or, in the comics, the search for the killer known as Holiday.

The Joker sums this up concisely towards the end of the film.  Dangling upside-down from a half-finished building, he tells Batman: "This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible, aren't you? You won't kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won't kill you because you're just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever."
The Joker:  madman, or simply
demonstrating the flaws in
moral objectivism?
Batman's attempts to do things "the right way" and without loss of life often serves to bring about great tragedy and  heartbreak, simply because he attempts to do what is "just" and "right".  The story could have ended much, much earlier had Bruce Wayne simply stepped forward though, truth be told, negotiating with The Joker isn't exactly something reasonable in and of itself!  That's what makes The Dark Knight such a great film, as well as what puts The Dark Knight Rises in such a difficult position.

Why do I bring this up?  Well, you see, Cold Steel Wardens is deliberately built to allow players to emulate and even play through this continued moral quagmire.  Every Hero in Cold Steel Wardens begins play with a series of Stances, in addition to their more standard background elements (Motivations, Flaws, and Origins).  These Stances represent important portions of a Hero's mindset and comprise their own moral and ethical "high ground" as they fight crime.  Perhaps a given Hero refuses to fight against police, or won't attack what he views as "children".  Maybe a Hero is driven towards vengeance against those who have committed sex crimes or crimes against police.  Maybe the Hero is outright bloodthirsty and doesn't care who gets hurt as they wage their war on crime.  There's room for all these at the table, as they're consistently meant to be challenged.

In addition to providing impetus for great role-playing opportunities, Stances provide a method for Heroes to add dice to the communal Hero Pool.  When the GM of a Cold Steel Wardens session challenges a Hero's Stance, the GM must add a die to the Pool.  However, if the player themself places their Stance into question--let the mafia thug get away, or pick up the gun on the floor and keep him from reporting back to his superiors?--he gets to add two dice  to the Hero Pool!  It pays to role-play!

Stances are simply one way to add dice to the Hero Pool, though they may certainly be the most dramatic.  When Heroes are forced into uncomfortable situations which question their morals, players themselves become engaged with the plot and its characters.  Here's for hoping that we see it  out soon!  With the first draft of Cold Steel Wardens nearly wrapped up--and in the hands of my two editors already--here's for hoping that we hit print in time for next August!

Next time, friends and neighbors--the results of my name-poll and my review of The Dark Knight Rises!


  1. You know what, that sounds like every attempt I've heard of people trying to get the idea of alignment to actually make sense. It shouldn't just be a black/white wrong/right world, but the actions you take should be predicated on what you believe, and modified to fit the situation. bravo Sir!

  2. Thanks, Shorty!

    If you're interested in more, I'm planning on running demos of CSW all along the major convention circuit--regardless of production schedule--starting next year.

    Ideally, though, I'll be looking at publishing in time for GenCon 2013... :D

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